Oh man, the phrase that comes to mind is “Dream come true.” Never in a million years did I think I’d be a part of the New York Yankees.

That’s what Nick Swisher told us how he felt when he’d been traded to the Yankees after the 2008 season. Fast forward to the present, and it seems like Swish is about to wake up from that “dream.” All indications point to the eccentric outfielder, now represented by Scott Boras, taking a multi-year deal to play elsewhere.

The fickle, what-have-you-done-for-me-lately group known as Yankee fans want him out of the Bronx, and by an overwhelming margin. We’re a bit more sentimental, as he did give us a great interview a couple years back. But we’re not Joe Torre, so we don’t make our recommendations based on nostalgia. We’ll evaluate Swish objectively.

Swisher was the best trade of the Brian Cashman “full-authority” era

Using an understanding of BABIP, Cashman absolutely robbed White Sox GM Kenny Williams when he traded for Swisher in November 2008. In his Yankee career, Swisher hit .268/.367/.483 (124 OPS+, 128 wRC+) and played solid defense. He also generated 15.1 wins above replacement.

This was grand theft.

Fans criticize Swisher for his lack of “clutch”

Fact — Nick Swisher was one of baseball’s best hitters with RISP for 2012. And since joining the Yanks in 2009, he’s been pretty good in that regard, hitting .267/.396/.466 (.371 wOBA, 130 wRC+). He’s actually hit better with RISP than he has overall. In fact, his numbers with RISP since 2009 are better than Robinson Cano, Alex Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson, and Curer of Cancer Derek Jeter. Facts are facts.

The playoffs have been a different story for Nicholas, as he’s hit .169/.283/.305 in 181 career postseason PAs. This is where the angst from fans comes from. You can argue that he folds in October like a cheap suit, but he’s been a very good player for the Yankees. And if you are of the “clutch” persuasion, he’s come through in the regular season (which you need to get into the playoffs) better than some of the superstars whose posters you probably tape to the ceiling above your bed.

What should the Yankees do with Nick Swisher?

Swish earned $10.25 million in 2012. This was great value for his level of production. He’s been worth over $17 million in each of the past two seasons. In his next deal, we wouldn’t be surprised to see an annual average salary of $15 million+.

With that said, the Yankees should absolutely extend him a qualifying offer ($13.3 million under new CBA). If he leaves, the Yankees get a draft pick. If he accepts, the Yankees get him for 1-year at a very nice rate, and still have flexibility at the end of the 2013 season to get under the Steinbrenner Cap. This is common sense.

After ditching his previous agent for Boras the Terrible, there’s no way Swish accepts the Yankees qualifying offer, and the idea of a Jayson Werth-type contract was floated earlier in the year. Werth signed for 7 years, but even if Swish looks for something around 4, the Yankees should bid farewell to the tongue-wagging switch-hitter.

Swisher turns 32 on November 25th, and wouldn’t it be something if the Yankees didn’t sign someone through their decline years? A 4-year deal, for example, would bring him to age 36.

Age aside, the key is for Cashman to have enough wiggle room under the Steinbrenner Cap. There are and will be bigger priorities to address, and signing a right-fielder through his mid-30s shouldn’t be one of them. If Swish can get a lengthy deal, then good for him. He’s been a very good player. But, it’s simply not in the Yankees best interests’ to lock him up to that type of deal.

Right-field is a position, that with a little bit of creativity, can be filled for cheaper money and similar production.

Option #1 Ichiro

He’ll come cheap. First, we’re probably looking at a 1-year deal. Second, the Mariners paid two-thirds of his remaining salary to play in New York in exchange for two marginal prospects. That gives you an idea of how the market values Ichiro at 39 years of age. We would offer Ichiro a one-year deal in the $5-6 mil range. It’s doubtful another team would guarantee a contract that will take him through his age 41 season. Another team might be willing to offer slightly more salary on a one-year deal, but Ichiro is probably not going to spurn New York City and a shot at his first World Series championship to go play in Kansas City for a 15% increase.

We are under no illusion that he’s Ichiro of yesteryear. Keep in mind that he’s been god awful with the bat over the last two seasons with a .277/.308/.361 line. There is hope that he can rebound, based on his small sample (!!) in New York.

Like Jeter, Ichiro depends on a high babip to sustain his on-base percentage. To be successful, Ichiro has to chopstick the ball and either hope it has eyes, or otherwise use his speed to beat the infieder’s throw. So goes the babip, so goes Suzuki. Unfortunately, Safeco Field has been a babip-killer recently. This doesn’t explain away Ichiro’s brutal stretch, as his numbers on the road these past two years have also been wretched. But whatever the combination of park factors, skills, and randomness, Ichiro came out of his funk upon donning the pinstripes. As a Yankee, Ichiro hit for a .342 wOBA and his offense was a robust 14% better than average (as measured by wRC+).

Age and his offensive output over the last two seasons make Ichiro a bit of a question mark. However, his speed and defense set a reasonable floor for his value. Even with the bad overall bat numbers, Ichiro was still worth 2.6 WAR last year. He is certainly capable of replacing at least 2 of the wins the Yankees will lose with a departing Swisher — and they will save millions, which they can use to boost the rotation.

Plus, imagine Gardner and Ichiro roaming the outfielder corners. That’s a hell of a defensive formation.

Option #2 The Dick / Hair combo

Chris Dickerson vs RHP: .269/.354/.424 (107 wRC+) in 505 career PAs, and solid defense

Free Agent Scott Hairston vs. LHP: .276/.325/.500 (119 wRC+) — made $1.1 million in 2012

Good production from both sides of the plate, and a fraction of the cost of what Swisher will command. It may not recoup all of Swisher’s production, but that’s millions the Yankees can spend elsewhere.

Vote Dick/Hair!

Option #3 Trade

Real bad boys move in silence, so who knows who’s available. Arizona is reportedly open to Justin Upton offers (for the millionth time), and he’s a curious case. But we’ll tackle those trade ideas when we get a sense of who’s on the market. The most feasible options are the first two we outlined.